The New Orleans Pelicans just can’t shake this alternating wins and losses thing.
Coming off a somewhat surprising 118-114 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder this past Wednesday, enjoying three days of rest since that big win and reportedly having the best practice of the season 24 hours earlier, the Pelicans still managed to lose by a 102-96 margin to the Miami Heat.
In fact, this Eastern Conference team currently sitting outside of the playoff bubble has already swept the season series. Although New Orleans is on a similar pace to last season, one can’t help but shake the feeling that this one may not go accordingly. For instance, the Pelicans will not face the Heat, Wizards or Knicks again on the 2018-19 schedule — three teams that had combined for a 33-56 record before tonight. Well, then again, maybe its a good thing because New Orleans won just two of six of these contests.
Despite Anthony Davis getting off to a very energetic start with 12 points and four rebounds, New Orleans found themselves down 33-28 after the first 12 minutes — a deficit that remained constant throughout the rest of the game. The Pelicans couldn’t run the ball effectively (Tim Frazier was a complete non-factor in his 12 minutes), couldn’t shoot the outside shot as effectively as they needed after Miami shut down the lane in the second half (Darius Miller and Andrew Harrison finished 2-14 from three-point range), but the 22 offensive rebounds given up by New Orleans stuck out as the largest sore thumb.
Miami entered averaging a healthy 12.1 rebounds, but they boarded seemingly nearly half their misses in New Orleans! Off these gracious second chance opportunities, they scored 25 points. Yes, it didn’t help the Heat made fortunate three-pointers to close both the first and second quarters, but a professional team does possess the ability to limit the number of shot attempts by an opponent.
22 offensive rebounds, yeeesh! And yet there was another equally painful eyesore: Anthony Davis didn’t register a shot attempt for the first 18:13 of the second half.
The MVP-candiate was nearly invisible for the entire second half!
After scoring 18 points in the first 23 minutes, Davis didn’t shoot or score again until the 5:43 mark of the fourth quarter, in which he drained a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 89-81. AD finished with a line of 27 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks, but Miami holding him to zero for such a gigantic stretch is the story.
Following the game, Alvin Gentry credited Miami for consistently doubling Davis, but it’s difficult to accept that nothing could be done to manufacture a single shot attempt in 18 minutes. New Orleans can’t survive on just 42 points in the paint and a combined 17 free throw attempts. Unfortunately though, the offense did look completely lost. There were no fastbreak opportunities nor pleasing halfcourt sets run. Even pick-and-rolls vanished. Just a ton of isolation plays that resulted in kick-outs or difficult attempts at the rim.
Miami dared New Orleans to beat them from the outside and the Pelicans obliged. They attempted 24 threes in the second half — a death knell for a team that doesn’t shoot well from deep.
Interestingly, the Heat didn’t run away with this one. With 1:04 to go, the Pelicans had a chance to climb within four points, but Jrue Holiday missed a fastbreak lay-in. Both he and Julius Randle, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, missed a number of makable shots inside the paint, but they also attempted their share of what-was-that’s. And if that wasn’t enough, New Orleans will likely be without Randle for the foreseeable future.
Julius Randle (right ankle sprain) will not return vs. Miami.
— Pelicans PR (@PelicansPR) December 17, 2018
When it rains, it pours.
According to Gentry, we can expect Randle to miss the next game against the Milwaukee Bucks this coming Wednesday, but after that, he didn’t want to speculate. I will say I had a good view of Randle’s reaction to twisting his ankle, and it looked incredibly painful. As we’ve quickly learned, he’s tough and to watch him act like the injury might be something much worse, and then initially not put any weight on the foot, was scary. In postgame media, we did observe him with using crutches to get to his locker after showering.
As a sidenote, Dwyane Wade likely closed out his professional playing career in New Orleans tonight. After this season, he’s calling it quits, so unless the Pelicans face the Heat in the NBA Finals or Wade gets traded to another team, fans won’t get another chance to watch The Flash up close and personal. For his last game in the Smoothie King Center, Wade posted an impressive 19 points in 23 minutes and a few of his three-pointers were of the back-breaking variety.
Where doesn’t New Orleans go from here? Who knows at this point. Most penciled in a win for a solid home team against a below average opponent, especially with a difficult upcoming four-game road trip. Up next, the Bucks, Lakers, Kings and Mavericks sit in wait — Four teams sitting inside the playoff picture. The Pelicans, for seemingly eternity now, continue to swim outside of it.